Dhal simply means pulse; this explains the range of different types of dhals you can get. This recipe uses channa dhal or yellow split peas to create a creamy, velvety textured tarka dhal. Channa dhal does take a bit longer to cook, but it’s well worth the effort. Tarka means seasoning. The tarka is based on lots of garlic, cumin seeds and amchoor powder. Amchoor powder is made from dried mangos and gives a gorgeous lemony taste to the dhal.

If you like this recipe, you may also like these Indian recipes:

Saag Aloo
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Tarka Dhal

Serves 6 as a side, 4 as a main

400g channa dhal or yellow split peas
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
5cm (2 inch) fresh ginger, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 green chillies, seeds removed
2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp asafetida
2 large onions or 4 small, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp amchoor powder, dry mango powder
fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Soak the dhal for 1 hour, then drain and rinse. Place in a pot with the turmeric and cover with 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Cook until the dhal is tender, about an 1-1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Check regularly to make sure the dhal is not sticking and add more water if needed, only a little at a time. When almost done add salt to taste. Pulses are very bland and it will take more salt than you think. Don’t salt until now as this will prevent the dhal from softening.

Grind the ginger, garlic and chilli together in a food processor, mortar and pestle or chop/grate finely by hand. 

Heat a thick pan (cast iron if you have it) and melt the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. When the seeds start to sputter, cook carefully for a minute so as not to burn then add the onion. Cook until the onion begins to turn brown; if it starts to catch, splash with a bit of water and turn the heat down a little.

Add the ginger, garlic and chilli mixture and stir, then add the remaining dry spices, stir and cook for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour over the cooked dhal. Stir in, taste and adjust the seasoning. It’s traditional to stir in a spoonful of ghee when serving – I will leave that up to you. Garnish with fresh coriander.


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  1. mark gregory

    Tried loads of dhal recipes in the past – all with lentils.
    This one with channa dhal was ‘next level’ – family loved it.
    Give it a go !
    Thanks Erin

    • Erin Baker

      Hi Mark,
      Wonderful news. They take a bit longer to cook, but so worth it in the end. Thank you for sharing.


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